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Coaches, administrators concerned about uncertain status of fall football

UPDATED: Thu., July 9, 2020

The Mead football team takes the field before an Oct. 18, 2019 game against Central Valley at Albi Stadium in Spokane.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The Mead football team takes the field before an Oct. 18, 2019 game against Central Valley at Albi Stadium in Spokane. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

On Tuesday, the Washington Interscholastic Activates Association delayed the start of practices for fall sports until the first week of September, a holdup of more than two weeks from the original starting time for fall practices.

Football, which was slated to start practice on Aug. 19, was pushed back until Sept. 5, and the other fall sports until Sept. 7. The football season, which was scheduled to start Sept. 4, now will be delayed until at least Sept. 18.

Per WIAA guidelines, football players need to participate in 12 practices before being eligible to play in games. All other fall sports require 10 practices before being eligible for competition.

But with positive cases rising in many areas and Spokane County stuck in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase “Safe State Washington” plan, whether classroom instruction or athletics can resume in the fall at all is still in question.

According to the WIAA guidelines regarding returning to play, the county needs to be in Phase 3 before “workouts” for football and other “high-risk” sports can start, and even that is still without contact. The guidelines are not specific as to when contests may resume.

“Low-risk” sports, such as cross country and swimming, may resume contests with limitations in Phase 3 and “moderate-risk” sports (volleyball, soccer) may conduct contests in Phase 4.

On Thursday, New Mexico postponed football and soccer until the spring and the Dallas Independent School District Superintendent told MSNBC he has “significant doubts” the sport will be played this season amid the pandemic.

Amid the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, the WIAA plans to update the situation on July 22.

All of this adds more uncertainty to a situation that is surrounded by it.

Some area schools are already clearing the first two weeks of the schedule, which for football especially are filled with nonleague games.

“A bunch of ours were versus, you know, Coeur d’Alene for football and Post Falls for volleyball, and I figured I just owed it to those guys to let them know – I texted them as soon as I found out,” Mt. Spokane athletic director Paul Kautzman said.

The Wildcats were scheduled to host CdA at Whitworth on Sept. 5 and travel to face Eastmont in East Wenatchee on Sept. 11. Both games have been marked as “postponed, new date to be determined,” on the Greater Spokane League website.

KLEW reported that Clarkston, an incoming member of the GSL 2A division, dropped its season-opening rivalry game against Moscow, the first time since 2007 the teams won’t face each other in football.

Central Valley football coach Ryan Butner is open to any ideas that allows competition.

“We obviously want to get started on time, but you know, at this point, I’m all for anything that just allows us to play a season,” he said. “And whatever that might be. If that means pushing the start date, whatever, I’m all for that.”

If schools open on time and football practice is allowed to start Sept. 5, it’s still difficult to imagine teams playing a full season.

“I don’t know how you can sugarcoat it,” Kautzman said. “I’ve heard some people say that you might be able to get two games into a week … it’s hard to line up as it is. And then you bump our schedule, start of our season back two weeks, there’s really no way to make that up with them. I mean, it’s just not gonna happen.”

Kautzman raised the idea of trying to pick up games in-state to make up for those early season contests that will be lost, but that raises anther question of logistics.

“I think that COVID-19 has definitely put a limit on travel for sure,” he said. “I don’t think any district is going to be too thrilled about putting a bunch of kids on a bus and send them over the mountains anytime soon.”

Once schools open, Kautzman can envision a scenario in which noncontact sports can resume, but others remain iffy.

“I worry most about football, and I worry most about wrestling and those high-risk sports, and wonder how hopefully we get to a stage where we can get those in for sure,” he said.

District 8 director Herb Rotchford made an appearance on SWX on Wednesday and talked about the possibility of moving some fall sports to the spring and vice versa.

“What we don’t want to do is to create a situation where kids are going to have to make a choice, if they love two sports, and one sport isn’t in season that it historically has been,” he said. “How much of that is possible? How much of that is feasible? Even if we do move sports from one season to another and move that around, there’s a lot of logistical things that need to happen.”

“What I would hate to see happen is for the spring sports to lose two seasons in a row,” Butner said. “If that is the case – they flop them and they move spring into fall – you know, we’d want to make sure that those guys have the opportunity to play their season as well.”

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